Day 2 28th September Marpha – Kagbeni
Before I start properly I need to point out that I have been walking for 9 hours straight so this might not make total sense.
I woke up with the sun again and packed while trying to wake Rob up. With some success. We left our hotel at just after 8. We made it to Jomsom for a big breakfast at 9.30. By that point we were both hurting, mainly from the days before – my shoulders and hips were bruised from my new bag, Rob’s foot was hurting from an unknown injury.
A simple breakfast (tea, eggs, hash browns and cheese toasties) made it all better and after filling up our water we were on our way again. Not before handing out some of the apples we had been given by the lovely hotel lady earlier this morning. A nice thought but we were already weighed down. The girl who took our money for the water was happy to have them, and a spray of our sunscreen that she had demanded after seeing us put it on – I think she was disappointed though, and seemed to think it was perfume.
We took an early exit off the main route to walk along the west bank of the Kali Gandaki riverbed as Rob said we would get a much better view and might even find some fossils. The whole riverbed there was once the middle of an ocean – very weird to think about. We spent an hour meandering across shallow streams and I took some interesting rock photos for Miss Barker!
The wind began to pick up suddenly from behind us and we began to struggle with crossing the water that was zigzagging more frequently and getting deeper. Then suddenly out of nowhere a cluster of faster, wider streams began to cross our way until, an hour from Jomsom, battling a dust storm, we realised that we could not get around or across. Walking a little further Rob left me sheltering from the wind and tried to find a way across to the road where we could see the silhouettes of people walking through the dust cloud. I watched for as long as I could until he vanished in the smog of it, and I waited trying not to imagine that he had fallen in or tripped. After a moment though he reappeared and I headed towards him, no luck.
The only think we could do was to head back to Jomsom against the increasing wind, the dust stinging my bare arms and coating every bit of skin and clothing. It took an hour back and – perhaps with the knowledge that we were going back on ourselves and would have to make the trip again – we were in more pain again.
In Jomsom we found respite from the wind in a tiny cafe that smelt of yak, where we drank milk tea and cleaned our faces a bit, while the owner’s shy children snuck up to say Namaste.
Attempt two to Kagbeni was had mentally as well as physically, the road was as bumpy to walk on as our rough west-bank route and we had to keep dodging jeeps heading up and down. It was a slow walk, taking over two hours to the first small town and any sign of life. We struggled to cross at another river, swollen by the monsoon, so that it took Rob to pull me onto a small boulder in the middle (which my smaller legs could not reach) and another guy who was heading the other way helped us by passing our bags over.
By the time we reached Eklai Bhatti everything hurt and we were almost completely out of energy, we had no choice but to keep plodding on, one step at a time up and down and around the final few hills.
The sun had already set on Kagbeni by the time we arrived, but reached across the rest of the valley and despite our exhaustion we had to pause to appreciate the view.
We went to the first lodge we came to, New Annapurna Lodge where we were given and amazing view bed and bathroom for Rs300 a night. After a shower and an amazing meal we began to feel human again, and even had a chat with the two guys we had met at the water stop yesterday. We have kind of pushed ourselves for day two, so will take our rest day early to acclimatise before the accent to Muktinath.
Day 3 29th September Kagbeni-Rest Day
Up early. I wandered (limped) in my flip-flops to the road and took photos of the morning sun through the clouds and bemused donkeys watching my warily as they found impossible grasses growing up from the rock.
I took my notebook and iPod and drank tea in the dining room, watched the view change and made notes for NaNoWriMo.
Rob woke in time for a later breakfast and we wandered into the town of Kagbeni to fill our
water. Strolled past ancient stupas and a whole road of prayer wheels to the ACAP office, where we sat next to a massive Tibetan mastiff and looked out into the forbidden kingdom of UpperMustang for an hour.
Walked through the old (medieval) part of town, through the tiniest of alleys to find chillies drying on roofs in the sun, and gossiping huddles around taps. Took a sneaky photo of the town’s animist protector, a moustached monster with an erection.
Found the old monastery by the side of the river and walked clockwise, overtaken by chasing mini-monks.
A little further downstream was a bridge over to the other side (towards Tiri and Mustang). We crossed to take photos of the town below us and watch the water weave through the valleys we walked yesterday.
A lunch of tea and momos, and a quiet afternoon of feet up and reading, planning our next move up to our trip’s literal high point, the pilgrimage site of Muktinath.